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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

Jackson is not sexist

I am writing concerning Larissa Johnson's viewpoint, "A Sexist Degree Debacle," that appeared in the Nov. 2 issue of the Daily. The article displays a woeful ignorance of Tufts history and organization, "slippery slope" reasoning, and a misunderstanding of appropriate federal and state legislation concerning gender equity in private higher education.

First, there are four degree granting schools or colleges within the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering (formerly the Faculty of Arts and Sciences): the College of Liberal Arts and Jackson College, the School (formerly the College) of Engineering, the College of Special Studies (School of the Museum of Fine Arts and certain non-degree programs), and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The 2000 edition of Bulletin of the Tufts University Arts, Sciences and Engineering (pp. 9-10) contain this information. The Tufts website also contains this information. The dean of social and natural sciences and the dean of arts and humanities both hold the title "Dean of Liberal Arts & Jackson College" and preside at meetings of the Liberal Arts &Jackson College faculty. The author's assertion that, "To find any reference of Jackson College you would have to search the archives," is at odds with reality.

Second, the author's contention that admission of undergraduate women to Jackson College (instead of the College of Liberal Arts) in and of itself constitutes gender discrimination is laughable. The College of Liberal Arts and Jackson College have always had the same faculty, most of whom are also members of the GSAS faculty. Male and female undergraduates take the same classes taught by the same faculty. They live in the same residence halls and have access to the same academic support facilities. Does this mean that sex discrimination does not exist on the Medford/Somerville campus (or any other college campus)? Of course not! Nonetheless, I fail to understand how the "Jackson College" notion on the admissions records, transcripts, and diplomas of female undergraduates constitutes discrimination.

Third, how can the author reasonably claim, "Ms. [sic] Jackson would probably be appalled that a distinction between the sexes was still being made at this university?" Does the author present any archival evidence to suggest that the late Professor Cornelia M. Jackson would strongly object to the naming of a college in her honor?

Fourth, how would the author respond to other colleges and universities that have separate undergraduate colleges for men and women that share common facilities, faculty, and curricula? For example, Tulane University has two undergraduate colleges, Tulane College (for Men) and Newcomb College (for Women), under the jurisdiction of a Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Until 1972, my alma mater Duke University had two liberal arts colleges, Trinity College and the Woman's College, which occupied different campus, but shared a common faculty. (They merged to form a single degree grantingunit, "Trinity College of Arts and Sciences," and now both campuses are coeducational).

How does the author feel about single sex colleges and universities, such as Wellesley College? Do admissions practices of such institutions somehow demean the value of the education they offer women? I do not think so. Do women's colleges discriminate against men? Congress, the federal courts and the state courts have not supported this contention.

Finally, the author writes, "It is a clear violation of both federal and state law to award a degree that contains language whose inclusion is solely based on the gender of the recipient....The apathy of the faculty, administration, and student body to this practice is a disgrace." I beg to differ. Instead, it is a disgrace that such an ill-informed, poorly reasoned, and under researched article appeared in the Tufts Daily. It is a further disgrace that this rant, posing as a noble call to arms, may divert our attention from addressing real issues of discrimination and equity.

If the author is so offended that the words "Jackson College" will appear on her diploma, may I suggest she transfer to another institution?

Jeffrey W. Taliaferro is an assistant professor of political science. He is on leave for the academic year 2000-2001.